For Arsenal fans it was considered a burden. And when the Gunners flopped so badly in the final with a 4-1 defeat to London rivals Chelsea, you daren’t mention to Gunners fans the fact that, after missing out on the Champions League yet again, they would have to contend with the inferior European competition next season, too.
After finishing fifth in the Premier League standings, Unai Emery’s men squandered their last chance to playing in the continent’s top league with the loss to the Blues and now they must reacquaint themselves with a disrupted fixtures list with plenty of Thursday night action followed by games on Sundays.
But while Arsenal followers are quietly seething — especially as north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur get to play in the Champions League — the same can’t be said for followers of Wolves. They are absolutely ecstatic about taking part in the Europa League as it is a sure sign of progress for their club. The participation of coach Nuno Espirito Santo’s side means Wanderers will play their first European game in 39 years when they take on either Northern Irish side Crusaders or B36 Torshavn from, of all places, the Faroe Islands.
Wolves will play the Europa League’s second qualifying round first leg at Molineux on July 25 and then they are on the road for the second leg on August 1. Wolves fan Geoff Watson says seeing his heroes back in European action after such a hiatus is “astounding”. He said:
“Like most Wolves supporters I am pinching myself. It’s simply astounding. It just goes to show how far we’ve come in recent times and the majority of it has to be down to our manager, Nuno Espirito Santo. He is a God! I heard Chelsea have been sniffing round for him but he is going nowhere, or at least I hope he isn’t!”
Meanwhile, Glasgow Rangers can look ahead to a potential rematch with Luxembourg minnows Progres Neiderkorn — or their first journey to Ireland in 35 years. That’s if Steven Gerrard’s outfit make it past either Kosovans FC Prishtina or St Joseph’s of Gibraltar in the first round.
Rangers endured one of the most embarrassing losses in the club’s history when Pedro Caixinha’s side was knocked out of the competition by Neiderkorn two years ago. And following the draw on Wednesday draw in Nyon, they could yet face them once more.
If all goes well for the Ibrox giants they could also face Ireland’s Cork City in the opening round of the competition proper and the fixture would be their game on Irish turf since 1984 when they met Bohemians in an encounter played out at the height of the Troubles.